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By: Joel Broida
CU senior Sabatino Chen says the Buffs must have sense of urgency over last nine games.
Brooks: With Ruffled Ducks Ahead, Buffs Canít Mope
Release: February 06, 2013
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor
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BOULDER - For most coaches, moving past losses usually requires a couple of days, provided they have a couple to spare. For Tad Boyle, getting rid of last weekend's loss at Utah appeared more of a chore - or so it seemed late Monday afternoon.

He converses weekly (maybe daily during some weeks) with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, a close friend, mentor and former boss. That Boyle spoke by phone with Turgeon following Colorado's insipid, uninspired 58-55 loss on Saturday in Salt Lake City was as predictable as discord in Congress.

Turgeon's advice to Boyle might seem generic, but after feeling CU's three-game winning streak crumpled and discarded by the Pac-12 Conference's last-place team, any words offered by a colleague/friend were appreciated.

Turgeon to Boyle: "Don't get too high, don't get too low; stay even-keeled. That's what he said, and he's right. There were some things I was contemplating that I didn't do (in SLC). But I want our players to understand that the effort and the level of concentration, the level of focus and the level of execution that we displayed against Utah are unacceptable. And I will say since I've been here at (CU) as the head coach it's probably one of the top three losses that bothers me the most."

It's probably safe to say now that Boyle has flushed last weekend and is focused on this week's trip to Oregon (Eugene on Thursday, Corvallis on Sunday). After climbing out of their 1-4 hole in the Pac-12 standings, the Buffs slipped underground again in SLC. What that loss ultimately does to their RPI and chances to make a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance can't be determined just yet.

But let's just say another excavation needs to take place in the regular-season's final nine games. At 4-5, CU shares fifth place in the Pac-12 with Southern California. Ahead of that pair at 5-4 are three teams, two (Stanford, California) of which the Buffs have beaten. Washington rounds out the fourth-place trio.

NOT TO DWELL ON LAST WEEKEND'S debacle, but had CU taken care of business in Utah, the Buffs would have been in position to make another ascent in the standings. Five of their final nine games are in the Coors Events Center, but a road win or two could mean separation from the pack and earning a top four seed for the conference tournament.

"Players have to understand what's at stake and what every game means," Boyle said. "I don't think our guys understand that yet, and obviously they didn't understand it going into Utah."

Boyle found no fault with assistant coach Mike Rohn's scouting report - "He did a great job" - of the Utes. But, he added, "Obviously our guys don't listen or don't believe. But for whatever reason they weren't ready to play. The only people who can answer that are our players.

"I'm disappointed as a coach, because obviously what I'm doing isn't working - at least it didn't against Utah. But in the three games previous to that we were pretty good. I don't think they were ready to play, the first play of the game we turned it over . . . we were not ready to play."

Sabatino Chen, the only senior on the roster, said the Buffs lacked "consistency" and a "sense of urgency" - a couple of intangibles they must rediscover before trekking to the Pacific Northwest. CU, Chen said, must "come together and rely on our main foundations - defense and rebounding. We didn't do that against Utah (and) we need more urgency. We're running out of games now. We can't give games away. It's not about the teams we play, it's on us."

Boyle called his team's inconsistencies "mind-boggling . . . we come out in three games, especially Stanford and Cal at home, we're playing well offensively and defensively and we feel like we're on the right track, then we have that kind of effort (at Utah). It's disheartening."

Asked if those "mind-boggling" inconsistencies might be the mark of a young, inexperienced team, Boyle said, "It's a result of a poorly coached team and a result of a team that doesn't play with a sense of urgency - that's what it's a result of."

The Ducks might be involved in the same sort of introspection as the Buffs. Oregon's weekend trip to the Bay Area was an epic bust; after losing at Stanford and Cal, the Ducks dropped to No. 19 in the national polls and find themselves in a first-place tie with Arizona (7-2) in the conference.

If he wants to use it, Oregon coach Dana Altman has a physical handle on what struck down his team last weekend. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis has missed the past three games with a left foot injury. The Ducks are 1-2 without him, and in those three games Oregon's turnover total is 65 (23, 20, 22).

A date for Artis' return hasn't been disclosed, and to complicate matters at the position junior Jonathan Lloyd suffered a thumb injury at Cal, leaving his status this week unknown. If Artis doesn't return and Lloyd can't play this week, that moves freshman Willie Moore to the forefront.

STILL, ALTMAN WOULDN'T FINGER the point guard situation as his team's main turnover problem: "Everybody is turning it over. Every one (of the Ducks) who played had a turnover. We've just got to handle the ball better, make better decisions, make simple plays."

But falling in the Ducks' favor is their return to Matthew Knight Arena, where they are 14-0 this season. Plus, CU hasn't won in Eugene - previous games were played on McArthur Court - in 58 years.

To Boyle, the Ducks' new home is more of "an NBA setup" and isn't as foreboding as McArthur. When CU played at Matthew Knight Arena last season, Boyle observed, "It wasn't McArthur Court; I wasn't overwhelmed by it. It was good, but not over the top. But they're playing better this year, they're a top 20 team. It can be a great atmosphere if their fans are into it and it's sold out . . . they do have a good student section, but it's nothing like ours."

Venue comparisons aside, here's his bottom line for Thursday night: "They have a heck of a team; we have to expect the worst from them . . . we're going into a hornet's nest."

Even without Artis, the Ducks have enough talent and experience to be a major hurdle for the Buffs. Altman's teams, noted Boyle, are recognized for their "toughness, discipline and consistency . . . they do what they do and do it well. They rebound and keep coming at you."

Oregon is No. 3 in the league standings in rebounding margin (+4.0) while CU is No. 4 (+1.7). The Ducks' top rebounder is 6-7 senior Arsalan Kazemi (8.6 in conference), the Buffs' top board man is 6-7 junior Andre Roberson (11.0). Boyle hopes Roberson understands the challenge Kazemi represents on the boards.

Oregon's top three scorers in Pac-12 play have been 6-6 senior E.J. Singler (12.1 ppg), 6-5 freshman Damyean Dotson (11.8) and 6-11 senior Tony Woods (10.4). Dotson, from Houston (Yates HS), was a CU recruit that got away, but CU sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie was chased hard by Oregon before settling in Boulder.

Returning to .500 in the Pac-12 against the ruffled Ducks looms as a challenge for the Buffs. Freshman Josh Scott said he and his teammates recognize that:  "I think we're all excited about this trip. We're hungry. All these games now are really, really important to us.

"There were a lot of things we didn't do (at Utah). The message we're trying to get across right now is there has to be a sense of urgency and the little things matter."

Coming to that realization a week ago would have been ideal, but now is better than never. With nine games remaining, that lapse in Salt Lake City doesn't have to be a season-killer.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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